Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Listening to the Bible on CD--the Pentateuch

I friend loaned me a copy of the Bible on CD, and I've been listening to it in my car whenever I drive, starting at the beginning. The voices are done by major Hollywood actors, and the dramatization makes it more palatable. There is background music and sounds effects as well, like the sound of rain and of sheep going , "Bahhhh..."

Listening to the Bible is an entirely different experience than reading it. I've just finished the Pentateuch, also known as the Torah, the first five books. In the past when reading the Pentateuch, I tended to get lost; reading each countless verse in succession was like looking through a microscope at each molecule in succession that makes up an entire body.

In the car, I just put the CD on. My mind wanders just as when I'm listening to music or just driving. I don't have the microscopic focus on each individual verse. The characters keep talking, whether you got the last line or not.  But what I discovered was that listening results in a better overall sense of the narrative, without getting hung-up on the thorny details.

What I didn't realize until now is that the journey out of Egypt didn't end with the Book of Exodus, but the journey, and the transmission of the Law by God continues through the entire Pentateuch. Moses doesn't die until the last chapter of Deuteronomy.

With the event of the original Passover--with the angel of God killing the first born of every Egyptian family, Pharaoh finally agreed to free the Jews and let them return to the promised land. Each Jewish family had to sacrifice a lamb and spread its blood on their door post in order for the angel to "pass over" them. And afterwards, God commanded the Jews the commemorate the event every year, in what is known as the feast of Passover, which includes the eating of symbolic foods at a commemorative dinner known as the Passover Seder.

In the Christian New Testament, the Last Supper was a Seder. In the ritual, participants eat at four different times, and each part is concluded by drinking a cup of wine.  At the Last Supper, Jesus leaves the Seder after concluding the third part--without completing the ritual. The third part consists of eating the pascal lamb and unleavened bread--called the Bread of Affliction, and the concluding cup of wine is known as the Cup of Blessing. On the next day, Jesus was crucified--He had become sacrificial lamb, and his blood  was the fourth and concluding cup.

Whereas in Egypt, the Passover freed the Jews from slavery and allowed them to journey to the promised land, the crucifixion of Jesus freed us from bondage to sin and enabled our salvation.  Whereas the Jews in Egypt were freed physically, Jesus freed all of humankind spiritually. Moreover, whereas Jews commemorate Passover every year with the Seder meal, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant Churches commemorate the Last Supper with each Mass/Liturgy ("Do this in memory of me.").

While listening to the Bible on CD, I realized that the parallel continues. From the time Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, until they settled in the promised land, it was a long, contentious relationship between the Jews and God, with most of the people seemingly failing (sinning) most of the time.

The parallel that I see here is that once a person chooses to follow Christ, they nevertheless have a long journey ahead of them--a lifelong, sometimes contentious relationship between themselves and God, with much failure (sin) along the way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Victor Frankl on Freedom

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms; to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”